Rate my résumé

We had hiring managers and HR professionals look at six résumés. Here are their critiques.
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The applicants

college graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
Technology professional

Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
Financial services

Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
Biotech professional

Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
legal secretary

Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
social sector

Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.

The experts


Maureen Crawford Hentz is a manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for Osram Sylvania Inc., a lighting manufacturer. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than 15 years of experience, her interests include diversity recruiting, college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues.



Linda Mangini and Wini Chase are based in the Boston Office of McDermott Will & Emery. Mangini has served as the Boston Office Administrator for seven years and Chase is the Boston human resources manager. McDermott is an international law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers and offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Munich, New York, Orange County, Rome, San Diego, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., as well as a strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.
Carolyn Shea-Morrone has been a recruiter with Boston Scientific’s Global Staffing organization for the past eight years. She has helped support many of the company's businesses including Endosurgery, Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM) and Interventional Cardiology (IC) as well as corporate functions which include: Clinical, Sales & Marketing Regulatory, R& D. Prior to Boston Scientific Corporation, Shea-Morrone recruited in the hospital setting.
Biotech professional
Social sector
legal secretary

Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Thinks skills developed as a legal secretary would be valuable to a corporation. Now that her children are older, looking to get a career that allows for advancement.
See her résumé

1. What is your first impression of the résumé? Do you want to continue reading it?

Maureen Crawford Hentz of Osram Sylvania: At first glance, my initial thought is that this is an out of style résumé, which leads me to believe that the candidate has been out of the workforce for a while or hasn't looked for a job in a while. Résumé styles and formats go in and out of fashion, and this one is a bit out of fashion. (Big margins on the right with hanging dates is very late 80s to me).

The other first impression is that there is a lot here, and I would definitely continue looking at this for a professional-level position. However, if this résumé is for a legal secretary/administrative assistant (as I see in the background information), I might think there was too much here.

Linda Mangini and Wini Chase of McDermott Will & Emery: Standard format, simple, not fancy, information presented chronologically, gaps stand out, candidate chose to use wordy/long summary of details. It's clear that candidate has 20 plus years of experience.

The résumé format that was used forced us to read the first paragraph to see what the candidate is doing at her current job to get an understanding of what she wants in her next position (goal/objective was not included at the top so we had to read on to decide if we could figure out what she is looking for in a next career move).

Carolyn Shea-Morrone of Boston Scientific: Printed version is better than the electronic version (the e-version has the template lines & looks "too" formatted.) The first impression is good in the sense that that you can easily identify the employers and her work experience is outlined clearly.

2. In general, how important is the first impression?

Crawford Hentz: Again with this résumé, first impression is important. If someone is looking for an executive assistant position (professional level, not entry level) THE most important thing is that the document is perfect. Except for the 80s left side dating, this résumé is well done. No typos, good language used.

Mangini and Chase: First impression is important — we look for errors, spelling mistakes, poor word choice and grammatical errors, consistency, continued employment, years of service at each position — these can be quick negatives on a résumé. If a résumé is jumbled, unorganized, and difficult to read, it leaves a poor impression. With stacks of résumés to go through, every little thing does count in making final selections to contact candidates we want to meet and interview.

Shea-Morrone: First impressions are very important. The résumé needs to catch the recruiter/hiring manager's eye in order to read on for substance and content.

3. What do you think about the design of the résumé?

Crawford Hentz: Too text dense in the most recent position. I'd recommend bullets but not more than six.

Mangini and Chase: The font was OK — pretty standard (didn't use a small font to cram it onto one page, thankfully) as were the margins. This résumé used long paragraphs. Our personal preference is bullet points as it is easier to scan and it forces people to be less wordy. A résumé is intended to be a quick summary that includes important accomplishments to be discussed further in an interview, not a novel with an entire life history. There are no colors used — that is fine, we wouldn't spend the extra money or materials to print in color (if it were received electronically), we wouldn't think more/less it if the résumé were received via mail and was in color. We are more focused on what the résumé says; color doesn't make an impact.

Résumé was two pages, that's OK. Most résumés now are two pages. Anything beyond that is annoying (unless it is a very specific/detailed position).

Shea-Morrone:

  • Font style/ size: Font size is good
  • Margins: Margins are appropriate
  • Bulletpoints v. long paragraphs: Résumé is too wordy and repetitive. This résumé would benefit from a bulleted format and more action words rather than the standard "supported…."
  • Colors: No color used which is appropriate
  • Number of pages: Two pages, which is fine given the years of experience
  • Overall presentation: Good presentation; easy to read, good "white space."

4. In general, how important is a résumé's design?

Crawford Hentz: Design helps keep a résumé looking fresh and current. Interestingly, we see very few paper résumés any more, so what's really important is the way your résumé uploads into an applicant tracking system. If you are uploading as a document, then the formatting is preserved, but if you have to cut and paste or if your résumé is parsed, it's really really really really (did I mention really?) important to look at how the résumé converted and spend the extra few minutes to clean up the formatting and line spacing so that it's readable.

Mangini and Chase: See question 2.

Shea-Morrone: See question 2.

5. After reading the résumé, what is your impression of the candidate?

Crawford Hentz: Before I read, I tend to skim, and the first thing that jumps out at me is that this candidate is a job jumper. I see long periods at firms and then short periods in between. In reading the background information, it may be that the candidate was working at night while her children were young, but I can't tell that from this résumé. The candidate has lots of legal assisting experience. Even from her background information about wanting to be in a corporation, though, I'm not sure what she wants — an executive assistant position for a high level executive or a legal assistant position in a corporation.

Although normally I hate an objective section (I think they are a waste of space) in cases where the candidate is looking to make a transition to something, it's helpful to have the objective. Here's two she can use, depending upon what her objective actually is:

  • To bring well-developed professional executive assistant skill to a corporate environment
  • To bring well-developed legal assisting skills to an in-house counsel organization at a large multinational corporation.

Mangini and Chase: General impression of candidate was poor. Impression is that candidate is trying too hard to make a clerical job more expansive than necessary. There is too much data and repetition, the candidate needs to be more concise and organized in thought. The candidate didn't proofread; there are grammatical errors throughout the résumé and we'd be relying on the candidate to fix these types of problems for the people she would support if we hired her. Given how the résumé was written, we wouldn't have confidence in her producing a quality work product. Tenses must be consistent throughout the résumé. At a quick glance, we aren't sure what position she desires - legal secretary, document production specialist, legal assistant, work nights, work in which department, part/full time? There were some lapses with dates — causes for concern. In 20 plus years, she has had eight jobs — looks jumpy, can she hold down a job?

Shea-Morrone: The candidate has solid experience. The candidate appears to have solid legal secretary experience and has entertained moves to gain breadth in her experience rather than level/increased responsibilities.

The applicants

We took résumés from six different people looking for jobs and asked professionals to give us their opinion. See what they had to say.

College graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
  • Biotech professional

    Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
  • Technology professional

    Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
  • Legal secretary

    Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
  • Financial services

    Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
  • Social sector

    Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.